Bogged down by accountabilities

To an outsider, the education sector must seem bogged down by accountabilities. If you follow any of the debates on funding or schooling in general, it always seems to revolve around accountabilities. 

We know schools are accountable to governments, the Board of Studies and parents but this view has really grown out of the 19th century model of schooling. Richard Elmore believes that if the key decision-makers are not teachers then the profession will always been in a ‘politically subservient position’.

I believe that accountability is far too often about blame rather than responsibility. Schools have a responsibility to ensure the learning outcomes for all students improve – this is what parents/community entrust teachers to do. The future of societies depend on it.

Far too often, we have outsiders, often ill-informed, prescribing what needs to occur within the learning space, and even worse, developing accountabilities, which are often linked to funding arrangements. Simplicity usually wins out on engagement around theory and practice in such approaches.

If we demand that schools become relevant in a knowledge age, then we need to refrain from imposing ‘accountabilities’. Rather, schools need robust frameworks from which good decisions about learning and teaching are made.

Helen Timperley and co. from the University of Auckland states that when these so-called outsiders develop ‘recipes for teaching’ these processes have little impact on student outcomes and cannot be sustained long -term. So, how do we wrest back some professional ownership of this critical and substantive agenda?


One thought on “Bogged down by accountabilities

  1. The heading casued me to endure a sharp intake of breath! As my role is invloved heavily with just such accountabilities I felt I had to respond!
    I agree there are many notional accountabilities
    that are trivial , distractive and time consuming, flagpoles and posters to name but two. I think the way we have managed these things is to make them as minimalist as possible and ensure they are met at minimum level- simplicity does win out!. I ceratinly agree whole heartedly that teachers are the best placed to judge the how and why of improving student learning within their learning spaces. However I would note a contrary view that some of this sounds like educational xenophobia as it seems to presume that schools exist as a pristine island removed from the mainstream. This I do not support. I agree that improving the learning outcome for every student is vital but is it the only purpose of schools and schooling? Schools exist within and for the society and thus are, however notionaly, accountable to their students, families, government and broader communities for what they do and how they do it. I agree the concept of accountability has been subverted somewhat by the most recent governments who obssesivly linked a raft of items to funding and mainifestly had a fixed agenda related to it views on ‘culture wars’ and ‘back to the future’. I did not and do not support that model of demonstrating accountabilitiy but I do think schools are not removed from the broader social constructs in which they serve. As you suggest Greg the issue is one of ensuring that what we mean by accountability is really a framework for good decision making. I guess from the government perspective many of these accountabilities are about ensuring minimum standards are provided to and expected by all schools and systems for the studenst in their care. Schoosl expend an enormous amount of public money and resources and I don’t agree with Elmore that governments, scoieties and communities deserve no say or have no valid input or part to play in education systems and their purpose.Indeed with 21st Century learning the notion of communities and societies in which they operate and serve is even broader and more diverse.

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